Jena is a regular person, looking forward to her upcoming marriage, trying to get into the gemcutter's guild so she can become a master of the trade she loves. I really liked that this was not a Cinderella story where working-class girl meets nobleman and they fall madly in love. Morgan doesn't replace Bram as a significant person in Jena's life - he becomes another one, with a completely different type of relationship. Jena was juggling balancing a household and applying to the guild - I think that was enough 'normal' conflict for her before she gets pulled into the magic and political stuff without the sexist guild rules on top of it.
But it was absolutely worth the semester long wait to get a day when I could sit in one spot and read the majority of the book in one sitting.
i loved the world creation and some of the distinctive uses of magic.
From there Jena is propelled into a world of magic and noble politics and intrigue, traveling far across the continent in an instant (literally teleporting there) and becoming involved in the lives of not only this nobleman but his family, allies, and enemies. The political aspects played very large as plot points in the novel, as things are in doubt because the Diamond is deathly ill and one of the houses Emerald has very recently perished to a person, creating lots of turmoil in the council as each of the houses vie for their nominated candidate to become the new Emerald house. In the course of the novel, Jena welcomes new allies, discovers new enemies, becomes involved in court politics very high above her social station, and perhaps not surprisingly discovers she has great magical skills of her own. The characters were believable, there were some nice twists and turns in the back of the third of the novel, Jena was a very likable character who wasnt perfect and was quite relatable, and I really liked that the gemcutting aspect of her character continued to play a role throughout the novel, even after she is well into using her magical powers (sorry mild spoiler maybe?). There were times it could have been a little more fleshed out and sometimes I thought there was (almost literally) too much hand waving as this spell or that spell was used, especially by Jena, but the combination of magic in this setting based strongly on not only possibilities but the perception and desire for those possibilities to manifest (or not) and the fact that most all wizards in the setting have a natural partner, almost a soul-mate, that makes them stronger, each person balancing out the other, and the fact that this is not tied up in romance (necessarily) was intriguing.
I found it grating that Kerr limited the narration so exclusively to the POV character, Jena, when Jena throughout the book has no idea what's going on and shows no initiative in finding out. I did skip to the ending anyway (shhh) to read the very last bit, and bonus points for Kerr on having a somewhat unusual romantic element. Jena never did grow out of being a Mary Sue character,* but I'm willing to grant that Kerr probably explained somewhere on one of the pages I didn't read why Jena and her wizard partner had such incredible magical abilities. I didn't miss a key scene, either, in my skipping through the book: Jena directly reminisces during this heartfelt confession that they hadn't seen or spoken with each other since a scene at the start of the novel. It is of notable mention that the acknowledgment section lists Patricia Wrede and Joel Rosenberg as Kerr's mentor and tutor, respectively, and both Jane Yolen and Lois McMaster Bujold are blurbed as endorsing the book. Now, I've never yet found a book I've liked of Rosenberg's, but Wrede and Yolen are great favorites of mine and Bujold somewhat less so.
Over all this is just a bit of a mediocre fantasy book. It is original, heck, this is one of the fantasies where it actually doesn't end with a big epic battle, but just one or two characters taking on the villian, along with a few surprises to go along with it. The characters in this book are just alright, none of them have any real deep development, safe for one or two perhaps. The most boring characters have to be the villian and Jena themselves, actually, which is a shame.
With $50.00 from her first paycheck, she registered for a science fiction and fantasy writing class. Peg Kerr presently lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.